eSports in Africa
eSports is already a promising sporting industry in Africa with an annual audience of 3 million people mostly in the elusive 14 to 34 year age group.Now several big businesses and brands are preparing to enter the burgeoning field in a bold bid to broaden the exposure of its brand and boost sponsorship revenue.In Africa, eSports is millennials playing high-stake video games spurred on by thousands of cheering fans and the prospect of millions in sponsorship, prize money and endorsements. eSports events sell out and they are amazing live events. One of the football clubs in Africa which has been promoting e-sports is Kaizer Chiefs, a football club that your blogger supports wholeheartedly when it comes to South African football. The club hosted an eSports event that took place in July at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.In their event, there were more screens, more activities going on, more lights, more LED displays. In some of the tournaments your blogger has seen show that eSports is more concert-like than sport-like, but that’s what appeals to that younger audience.Put simply, eSports is competitive video-gaming and African countries are not being left behind. Tournaments are played online, sometimes in concert like halls, where professional teams with professional players battle each other in video games such as FIFA.South Africa has professional teams, semi-professional and amateur outfits as well. The industry in Africa, according to stakeholders I’ve interacted with recently, is on the tipping point of becoming more mainstream as it is in the developed world but only in South Africa.eSports is very strong in the millennial area, so for companies or brands like Kaizer Chiefs it is about diverse exposure to that audience. That’s no different to other sports where brands have became more relevant to a younger audience.Whether that translates into football is somewhat relevant but also not totally relevant. African brands want through eSports to have the ability to generate a broader appeal for clubs and be able to bring more sponsors, revenue and consumption of brand, whether that’s a live football event or a live eSports event.Some in Africa consider eSports a sport, some don’t. In good news for all eSports enthusiasts in Africa, there is now officially efforts to recognizes eSports as a formal sport under the existing sport affairs departments and ministries.
In South Africa, associations hold regular competitions, provide training to eSports teams in the country, and educate on gaming ethics among eSports players in internet cafes and game centers.Thanks to various brand support, there are advanced aims in countries like South Africa, Namibia to host international eSports events. There is also the opportunity for eSports to be one of the competing branches in sports competitions like olympic games in the future.So why do these young African gamers commit such a large portion of their lives to eSports? Along with prizes, recently spoke to a couple of existing young players to understand what motivated players to become professional gamers. Many of them are part-time or full-time undergraduate students, who have built up their gaming skills over couple of years more often during high school. These players are being approached by professional gaming clubs to compete on national levels due to their high ranking within online games. Most of the players i talked to still play from home. But some South African top team players i talked to train for up to eight hours a day from their specialized training facility or gaming houses.Despite unstable sources of earnings, and a lack of long-term job security with competitive lifespans typically ranging around four years, these players rise above the challenges and treat their sport like any other athlete.They engage in constant training, review and reflection meetings. They even exercise together for mental and physical well-being.They treasure this once in a lifetime opportunity, and have made sacrifices in the form of their education or a less hectic social life in the traditional sense.Players openly expressed a number of perceived benefits from being a professional gamer such as improved communication skills, resilience, enjoyment, personal growth, emotional self-regulation, self actualization and happiness. A number of players your blogger had a chat with recently also believed they have developed considerable personal growth through their experience in eSports, becoming much more focused and independent. To become an elite eSports star, a gamer must be able to dedicate a significant portion of their daily life to learning the skills required to become a top-tier competitive player.As an industry, eSports in Africa has yet to become truly mainstream.But widespread acceptance of eSports will come through a variety of methods such as legitimization from corporate and partners, to active social media and marketing campaigns from eSports stakeholders. I look forward to the day African elite eSports athletes will play at international stages, cheered by millions of fans.